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Technology spoiled us. We're used to things being always on and for the most part, they are. Last week Skype users found themselves unable to login in to their accounts – and thus make or receive calls – for the better part of two business days. When I wrote about it on Friday, I received mixed reviews in the comments.

Realistically, it is surprising that a network that has grown so fast in a few years may have had so few glitches (comparatively speaking) as Skype has. If the company did well on the reliability scale, where could it have used improvement? In addition to realizing that we had not made back up plans in case of emergency, what did we learn from the experience?
While the programmers may have been working feverishly to solve the problem on the back side, the popular Skype blog did not mention the reason, which unnerved users despite their statement: "...the Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We love our customers too much to let that happen."
A day later, Skype was referring to customers as "family" in their communications, but not really giving their customers the equivalent of a "family talk."
They used all the right words yet the sentiments in the news written by customers remained quite critical. What could have been done better? News that affects millions of people should be considered a crisis and treated as such. In that vein:
1. Apologize right away, don't wait two days.
2. Say you're sorry about the right thing. How about apologizing for you actions, not your customer's emotions?
3. Put your energy wholly into discovering the cause. Dispelling rumors works better long term when you have a theory to offer.
4. Make the "back to normal" announcement sing by putting meat to it. No need to wait for all the details.
5. When you create expectation that more details are forthcoming, deliver. Use active language whenever you can. Saying, "the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered critical disruption," and so on and that "the issue has now been identified" is more of the same passive speak. How about, "a Windows update caused a massive outage of the Skype peer-to-peer network." And then get into the details.
A fuller explanation of Skype's technical issues wasn't forthcoming until five days after the outage. A more timely note of this detail – while not technically exhaustive – would have gone a long way to reassure users of Skype's fundamental soundness.
How many companies and users have been investigating alternatives to Skype in the meantime? What will this mean to Skype's long term reputation as communications channel worthy of use by business?

Continue reading "What Can We Learn from the Skype Outage?" ... Read the full article

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Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a communicator she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs. Valeria is a Fast Company expert blogger and a contributor to The Blog Herald. She is a co-author of , a groundbreaking ebook collaboration by 103 of today's top marketing writers. Valeria is a frequent public speaker on brand marketing, customer service, and building successful business teams. She publishes in both English and Italian. Educated at the University of Bologna and Villanova University, Valeria combines New World sensibilities with Italian style. She's an active member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WACA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).